Have I Been Diagnosed?

David Swanson sent me this, and his accompanying email said, “I’m not saying you’re depressed, but this is interesting nonetheless.”  Of course when David Swanson says, in this case, what he’s not saying, I get suspicious. 

So I looked through my notes and chapters to start self-diagnosing.  For those of you who haven’t heard, postpartum depression affects men as well as women. 

I laughed when I thought about how much I’ve said to David since we learned about Dawn’s pregnancy.  He is a good man to take some of the stuff that’s come out of my mouth.  As is Winfield and Bishop Alvarado, my brother Mark, and Peter Hong, to say nothing about the words my spiritual director has held.  They’ve heard things they won’t (and I won’t) repeat at this point–thank God for confidence.

40 weeks is a long time.  And I remember thinking, we’ve waited for years for this, that moment when I’d wake up in the morning to see my wife sitting there, asking me if I wanted to know the results.  I already knew the news, she was pregnant!

Uh, but pregnancy is tiring, and I didn’t gain any weight.  I didn’t share (or lose) my body to a life inside.

I think the article is interesting for many reasons.  Remember these points as you think about the men you know, be they involved with pregnant women or not:

1) Men feel.  Who knew?  We have emotions. 

2) Men often don’t know what to do with feelings.  And we need to do something.  So, at times, we do crazy things, bad things, or somethings other than constructive things.  We need help listening to ourselves, help becoming aware of our stuff, and help treating people with respect despite ourselves.

3) Men need safe people to give their feelings to, people who won’t judge them but who will be truthful, loving, and respectful.  Men need people who will encourage them to tell the truth about their feelings and who will sit and hold with strength the things men say.  bell hooks challenges her readers to be able to hear men answer the question women often ask, how are you?  She says, “Most women do not want to deal with male pain if it interferes with the satisfaction of female desire.”  If you ask, if you want to know, exercise good strength to hear honesty.

4) Men must be taught how to relate well to ourselves and to others.  We don’t come–women too honestly–knowing how to navigate emotional terrain.  We are works-in-progress.  We’re writing our lives, in words and deeds, and those lives are subject to editing and revision–and sometimes scraping altogether.  Revising takes courage.  Especially when revising means altogether doing away with the stuff you know so well.

5) Life changes are great times for loss, grief, and discovery for men.  To relate well to men, we need should anticipate changes and name them as times of potential for the men we love and are loved by.  Whether your father is retiring or facing surgery; whether your parents are about to celebrate an anniversary or a painful divorce; during unemployment or re-entry into the work world; the first days of a brother’s attempt to live by grace in response to a past full of addictions.  Anticipate the emotions which come, ask about them, keep asking, and listen hard.

This post has gotten longer than I intended.  So I’ll wrap this up.

I’m not depressed.  Not yet.  Hopefully that won’t change.  I’m still able to get along with my normal activities, even if I have to schedule those activities around a newly forming life and his needs.  I’m still the same occasionally mean man I was a year ago.  Ha!  

Life is different.  My interests are changing.  I’m becoming both more and less selfish.  I’m aware of my desires and aware of the times when they will go unmet.  But, according to reports, I have up to twelve months to experience my fatherly postpartum.  So if you see me embodying any of these signs, or if my strong relationships weaken so that my good friends become jerks, send me an email, express your concern, say a prayer, or do all of the above.  I’ll be thankful for your care, even if your email says “I’m not saying you’re depressed…”

Question for you, male or female: How do you maintain your mental and emotional health?  What and who can you attribute your sanity to?

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4 thoughts on “Have I Been Diagnosed?

  1. Man! This post really speaks to me. Especially point #2! My father-in-law passed away recently, and it’s been an emotional roller coaster eversince.

    • Paul, I hope you’re finding the best places to travel through emotions after his death, even as you support your wife and her family. That ride can be exhausting.

  2. That question has very long answer. But in a nutshell, I need a group of pe0ple to do life with. I need to tell them what’s going on with me, I need their help, and I need to know what’s really going on in their lives.

    Your encouragement of men to share with someone they trust is dead on. I agree that the wife or GF may not always be the right person to hear it. They do expect us to be strong, even if they don’t always express that clearly.

    What is the foundation of emotional health? Briefly, two things: diligent work to root out faulty emotional dependencies on people, places and things; and faith in God to displace self-centered fear, which is (for me) the chief activator of all the other negative emotional reactions I bring to table when I am not living in faith.

    • Byron, those last words are a potential post for me, and they capture so much. Living in faith. Your comments are always perceptive and penetrating–online and in person.

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